Retrofit within Social Housing

19th August, 2013

David Brown, Head of Asset at Four Housing Group discusses what steps are taken to improve the energy efficiency of his housing stock.

In October 2008, the Climate Change Act was passed through the Houses of Parliament.  The Act works to ensure that the United Kingdom’s carbon footprint for the year 2050 is at least 80 per cent lower than the 1990 baseline. With this target in mind, the Act aims to enable the UK to become a low-carbon economy.

Housing stock is responsible for over a quarter of CO2 emissions in the UK, driving a requirement to reduce housing emissions and home energy use. It is well known in the housing industry that the building stock in Britain is some of the oldest in Europe. As a result, the government is focusing its attention on improving the energy efficiency of homes previously ineligible for funding through the introduction of the Green Deal initiative.

Here David Brown, Head of Asset at Four Housing Group, discusses what steps the not-for-profit social housing provider is taking in order to improve energy efficiency in its housing stock and the challenges for the future of retrofit.

As a provider of social housing across the North East of England, Four Housing Group has to consider and manage the energy efficiency of over 5,000 homes. Understanding the energy efficiency of our housing stock is the first step to developing a comprehensive and effective energy strategy.  As a result, data collection is key and our aim is to continually improve the quality of the data we collect and to ensure that periodic reviews take place.

While society is faced with ever increasing fuel costs, all measures that can be taken to reduce fuel consumption should be considered.  As a provider of social housing, we know that some of our customers will be affected by welfare reforms including Universal Credit and the ‘Bedroom Tax’.

In addition all of our customers will be impacted by rising energy costs.  These costs are expected to rise a further 100 per cent in the next five years, having already risen 100 per cent in the last 10 years.

With around 5.2 million social housing dwellings in the UK, sustainable retrofits are set to become a big challenge for housing associations and local authorities as they seek to make their housing stock more energy efficient.

For many social housing providers like Four Housing Group, this responsibility presents a number of challenges; balancing the degree of improvement needed with the ability to fund the works, applying new and emerging technologies with minimal disruption to occupied homes and ensuring that affordable warmth is available to residents without compromising affordable rents.

All of this must be achieved despite limited financial resources, budgetary concerns, split incentives and under-developed retrofit supply chains.

Having said this, at Four Housing Group we’re working hard to make our existing housing stock more sustainable and environmentally friendly.  We’ve recently completed a retrofit programme at one of our estates in County Durham, with many of our customers already reporting reduced bills after having their boilers replaced. To further emphasise the importance of energy efficiency, we have appointed a sustainability officer who will look to source additional energy efficiency measures and also provide training and advice to customers on how to save energy.

Funding from the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) funds is assisting housing providers that are committed to improving the energy efficiency of their properties. For example, we secured £1m in funding to improve the energy efficiency of over 130 properties in Berwick through externally clad insulation works. This will also benefit the wider community including private owners as the funding stream will be available to them.

As a social housing provider, ECO funding presents us with the opportunity to address the affordability issues faced by people living in what have become known as ‘hard to treat’ property types. The programme of work taking place in Berwick will help our tenants to reduce their energy bills and stay warmer during the winter months, while also allowing us to work towards the government’s carbon reduction targets.


Interested in visiting?

Interested in exhibiting?

Platinum Sponsor
Bronze Sponsor
Brought to you by
CORE Skills
Energy Saving Trust
Institute for Sustainability